Senin, 10 Januari 2011

Eradicating a Disease

How hard is it to eradicate a disease from the planet completely? In all of history, that goal has been achieved only once – smallpox disease was eliminated finally in 1980. The smallpox virus now exists only as frozen samples in government laboratories in Russia and the U.S. It’s worth noting that it took 180 years to eradicate smallpox!

Other eradication programs, most notably one for malaria begun in 1955 and abandoned in the 1960s, have failed miserably. A few, like the ongoing $8 billion polio eradication program, have sharply reduced the economic burden and number of deaths from their respective diseases. But achieving complete eradication has proven elusive. A recent outbreak of polio in West Africa is one of the deadliest since the polio eradication program began 22 years ago.

It may be time to re-think whether eradication of any disease is a feasible goal. Perhaps containment and treatment make more sense. In all likelihood, future disease eradication proposals will be subject to careful cost-benefit analysis before they are launched.

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